How to digitise a drawing

While it is true that some of us are more practised at drawing than others, anyone can draw and you don’t need to create Rembrandtian masterpieces to communicate a point. In fact, simplified caricatures are recognised more easily than photos. Psychologists Christopher Chabris and Stephen Kosslyn believe the mental images we form in our minds actually match caricatures better then fully rendered images, because our minds emphasise what is different about an object and de-emphasises similarities. This is why cartoons are effective.

There are lots of excellent but not massively complicated illustration styles that effectively convey a message. For years now, xkcd have been using the power of stick figures to illustrate ideas about maths and physics. Illustrator Kate Beaton has taken the internet by storm with her expressive illustrations. While she is clearly a master at drawing expressions, all she uses are wobbly black lines for many of her comics. And Vanessa Hill of Braincraft uses hand made collages to illustrate her videos.
braincraft_doyoufeelhungryUsing real pens, pencils, paper, paint and collage can often be easier than learning to use a fancy computer tablet and just as effective for making simple illustrations. But if you create a drawing and try to scan or photograph it, you’ll probably encounter this problem:
badpaperYuck! So how do you get rid of the smudgy, wrinkled paper backgrounds?

Image editing software like Adobe Photoshop and Gimp are often massive and complicated, so if you haven’t spent years being instructed on their features (like I haven’t) it can be a pain in the butt to find the right settings. So for anyone who doesn’t have access to Adobe Photoshop, step one is to download Gimp for free. Then follow these steps (shown in Gimp, and I indicate any different requirements for Photoshop instructions in square brackets):
Step1Step2Step3Step4Once you’ve cleaned up the drawing you can then publish as is:cleanbackgroundOr you can add colours or further manipulate the drawing digitally. With the Catstralia example (below) I continued to copy and paste and move things around (Step 4) until I made this:

tesskou_catstralia
I arranged the cats and numbat (an endangered Australian marsupial) according to psychological design principles.  Tune in to my next post to learn about design principles!

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